Scientists develop a multi-utility, lightweight, low-cost solar emergency light for people in flood-hit Uttarakhand

“We cannot make or receive phone calls though there is mobile network,” said Pushpa Devi of Bhanigram village in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district. She keeps her mobile phone packed under multiple layers of plastic for safety till electricity resumes in the village.

Post the mid-June disaster, there was no electricity in 3,758 villages in Uttarakhand. Though electricity has now been resumed in many of these villages, work is in progress to restore electric supply in the remaining villages. Till then, their residents are unable to charge their mobile phones.

Rameshwari Devi, Gram Pradhan of Deoli Gram Sabha in Rudraprayag district, said, “Though electricity has resumed in our village, it comes just for an hour every day.” In this precious hour, the villagers charge their mobile phones to keep alive their only mode of communication as the roads are still heavily damaged.

Considering the dire requirement of electricity and mobile phone connectivity in these remote areas, Society of Pollution and Environmental Conservation Scientists (SPECS) in collaboration with Uttarakhand State Council for Science and Technology (UCOST) has developed a lightweight, low-cost, Solar Emergency Light with facilities to incorporate mobile phone charging as well.

SPECS, which is a resource agency for Government of India’s Department of Science and Technology, has been working in the field of alternative energy for five years now.

Dr. Rajendra Dobhal, Director General of UCOST, said, “This is a practical solution for the situation in the disaster-affected villages.” He added that there is no electricity in many areas in the State and the June disaster exacerbated the situation.

Dr. Brij Mohan Sharma, a scientist at SPECS, said, “We made some changes in the technology to incorporate the provision for charging the solar panel in ambient light, solar light, and electric supply.”

The emergency light works for 24 hours. Dr. Sharma said in case there is no sunlight for some days, even then the device can be used for a few hours each day. The solar panel takes an hour and a half to get charged in sunlight and five hours to get charged in ambient light.

The light from this device is enough to light a 12x18 feet room and one can easily study in this light.

Dr. Sharma said the device also has a provision for charging mobile phones. Two mobile phones can be charged from the battery simultaneously with the emergency light on. However, in case of a mobile being charged, the light output would reduce to 18 hours and in case of two mobile phones being charged, it would further reduce the light output by six hours.

The device weighs just a bit more than a one litre water bottle. The cost of production is Rs. 1,500.

Dr. Sharma said, “This emergency light can be used during the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra [which happens every 12 years and will begin on August 29 this year]. Travellers can put the solar panel on their backpacks for it to get charged.”

Dr. Sharma said around 80 cottage industry workers and around 40 prison inmates in Dehra Dun have already been trained in basic electronics. “Putting together one device would take around six hours. Once we get the order, we will distribute the work between the cottage industry workers and the inmates.” The primary target is to distribute it to at least 2,000 families in the disaster-hit villages in Uttarakhand.